No money for Havana Biennial because of increased repression
The Prince Claus Fund and Hivos will not provide financial support
to the 2003 Havana Biennial this year because of increased repression
by the Cuban government. Hivos has also cancelled its financing.
However, Hivos still supports other Cuban projects. What considerations
prompted this decision?
During the past few months 75 Cuban activists have been picked
up and given long prison sentences. These sentences spell a drastic
deterioration in conditions for intellectuals and artists. The
Havana Biennial in November is an international art show with artists
from Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. The organisation
of the biennial is affiliated with the government and has not distanced
itself from the policy of persecution. This was reason enough for
the Prince Claus Fund to cancel its collaboration. In 2000 the
Prince Claus Fund contributed 90,000 euros to the event.
Hivos has also cancelled its financing for the biennial. However,
Hivos still supports other activities in Cuba, as does Novib. Dutch
labour unions and human rights organisations have voiced considerable
criticism of Hivos and Novib in the newspaper Trouw. This includes
Hivos’ support of the artist’s union UNEAC and the
cultural centre Casa de las Americas, which according to the critics
is part of the repressive system used by the government. UNEAC
has repeatedly expelled critical writers from the organisation,
according to Cuban dissidents.
Hivos has fourteen partners in Cuba, five of which are cultural
organisations. A number of these organisations are closely affiliated
with the government. Others are individual organisations; however
they cannot get any support without approval from the state. In
spite of the criticism, Hivos stands behind its choice to support
Cuban projects. 'We do not believe in isolating a population,'
declared director Manuela Monteiro. 'It is important to continue
the dialogue. This promotes the advancement of a society and promotes
other ideas within the society. In that respect the Hivos policy
is in line with that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.'
If dialogue is important, then why withdraw its support of the
biennial? 'Because we received notices that artists’ submissions
were being censored,' explained Paul van Paaschen of the Hivos Culture
Fund. 'This crosses the line, in our opinion. It is precisely because
of the refuge that the Biennial has offered for diversity for a
number of years – including artistic expressions that are
critical of Cuba - that Hivos has supported the event.'
This opportunity for free expression is important to the Prince
Claus Fund as well. Staff member Marjolein Tummers: 'The Prince
Claus Fund operates in zones of silence: regions where people do
not have the opportunity to freely express themselves culturally,
frequently due to political circumstances. We always weigh how you
can support individuals and organisations as well as possible in
their own environment. Our decision to withdraw support from the
Havana Biennial is an exceptional decision.'
Hivos withdraws its support when an organisation takes a position
that actively opposes human rights or violates human rights itself.
UNEAC has crossed this line: given the resolute stance of the UNEAC’s
president in supporting the strict measures taken against the Cuban
dissidents, Hivos must withdraw its support.
Marieke van der Velden